Tuesday, November 30, 2010

December has come...

Today is December 1st. How crazy is that? I honestly feel like it was last week that I flew into this new country on an airplane not 100 days ago. And I am honestly far from ready to leave.

Uganda is so different than anywhere I have ever lived before. In my mind I thought it would be about the same as Morocco. Although it does have similarities it itself is a whole other world.

Two weeks from today at about one in the morning I get on an airplane. I fly to Amsterdam, then to DC, and then to Atlanta.

I am excited to see my sister and my family. I cannot deny that, but I am far from ready to leave this beautiful country.

Everyday has not been easy. I hate cold showers, I hate that I am continually gaining weight from the food I eat, I hate how men hit on you because you are white, and I hate when I cannot understand the language.

Other than those fairly insignificant things I am far from ready to leave.

The community and simple living that has developed here is far from anything else I have ever experienced. When 32 people move to a 'foreign' country together they have no choice but bond together simply for survival.

The people I have met here amaze me. I have literally gained five sisters who are my family. And everyone else I love so much. All 32. Granted when you are all together you will get on each other's nerves now and then, but we really really love each other. We have all come together in a way I have seen few people do before. I honestly trust them all. I know if something was to happen they would be there for me. When I was in the US I always felt like I had maybe 2 or 3 friends that I could REALLY depend on at school. Why is that? Why can we not develop that kind of love, trust, and community in a college environment in the US?

I am not ready to come 'home' and I just felt I should tell everyone that now before I actually get back. I am not ready to leave the people I have here and simple living to go back to mass consumerism and a community I do not feel at home in. I am nervous about adjusting back to VFCC, and getting back in the midst of everything that the entails.

I know I can do it, I have before, but I am not ready to. Although I knew in the beginning that this was a semester event... I am not ready for it to be over.

I love it here.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Although I am in Uganda we did have Thanksgiving. All the ex-pats and USP students in the area got together.

We were in charge of the deserts. So Wednesday night me and four of my dear friends got together and made apple pies. It was so much fun!

Thursday we all got together to have dinner. There was so much food. We all ate SO much we felt sick and could barely stand. And then we watched Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It was so much fun.

Being here made me really see everything that I am truly thankful for.

First my family. Both immediate and extended they mean the world to me. They have always been there and been the most amazing blend of people and love that I have ever met. I love them so much.

Second my chance to come here. I love Uganda and I love Africa. I am far from ready to leave in two weeks and would love to stay here. I love my friends so much and the community we have developed. I love my five 'sisters', my family that I have gained here.

Third I am thankful for the life I got to live. It was not always easy and there were days that were not fun. But at the end of it I am so thankful to my parents for giving me a life like few others get.

Fourthly I am thankful for my friends everywhere. I love them all so much. We have our up and downs, but at the end of the day I would do anything for them. I could sit here and list off so many people that this includes but you know who you are... You mean the world to me.

Lastly I am thankful for Phil. He has been my best friend for a long time, and walked into my life at one of my worst moments and stood by me through everything.

(I would have liked to have made all this more extensive but I have somewhere to be. I love you all and I am excited to see people soon!)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Goodbye my dears.

Goodbyes are never easy and something I probably struggle with more than most people. I absolutely HATE leaving people and saying goodbye to pretty much anyone.

This past Tuesday was my last day at CHAIN. My practicum. Although parts of this, like the school, were easy to leave, leaving my kids was awful. I have come to love them so much, and walking away from those kids I have spent the last three months getting to know, and knowing that I will more than likely never see again was awful.

While were there Tuesday we mostly just played with the kids. We did have a time where we went over our assessments with Dorthy and talked to her about what we knew about CHAIN and what not. Oh in case anyone wanted to know CHAIN stands for Children Health Advocacy Initiative Network.

We went to devotions to tell the kids goodbyes, but our van pulls up before we even get to say goodbye. Since there was not time for everyone to talk Alayna said a few things about how we loved them and would miss them and how much we enjoyed our time with them this semester. Then we give a lot of them hugs and are on the verge of tears, when Becky shows up bleeding everywhere. The dog from an organization across the street is our dog’s ‘husband’ and attacked her when she was petting the CHAIN dog. She is having to get rabies shots and got stiches in her hand and knee. So if you could keep her in your prayers that would be great!

So even though becky stole the show… haha… we had a pretty good goodbye with our kids. I miss them so much and I hate that we had to leave them, and I do hope that the all do great things. They are such great kids. Please keep them in your prayers as well. They are so amazing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Amazing Safari Adventure

Last Thursday a group of six of us headed off to a Safari. We took a taxi to Kampala and went to the Red Chili Hideaway where we stayed the night. We had dinner and some people played scrabble and then we went to bed. We stayed in a dormitory where the six of us stayed in bunk beds with other people in the opposite room and we all shared a bathroom. We got up at 7 the next day to eat our bread and peanut butter that we brought with us and went outside to be prepped. We got in our safari van and began the drive to Murchison Falls. About 2 hours into it we picked up two other people to add to our van. We ate lunch in Masindi and then headed out again. We got to our campsite – the Red Chili Rest Camp – in Murchison Falls National Park and got to spend the rest of the day hanging out.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing cards and eating a ton of beef jerky and amazing trail mix. We had a great dinner and went to bed super early. That night though we did get to see a hippo in our camp!

The next morning we got up at 5:45 am ate our bread and peanut butter, watched the sunrise, and got in our safari van. They had put the roof up and we drove down to the Nile .We crossed over on the ferry and then began our Safari!!

I expected to only get to see patches of animals here and there. We literally almost always had some sort of animal in sight. There were giraffes everywhere it was amazing.

On the land safari we saw pumbas, giraffes, aldabeasts, elephants, other deer gazelle looking things, buffalo, hippo, some birds, and a couple jackals.

At one point they let everyone get out of the van in case they need to pee, and so that we could get up closer to the hippos. While we were looking at them some fisher boys were paddling their boat towards them and they all started moving! Hippos are seriously HUGE. Then we got to see a momma hippo and her baby walking around. It was so cute!

At another point Alayna and I jumped off of the van (we were sitting in the front/back outside of the actual back) with the permission of our guide of course and tried to get closer to the giraffes. Obviously they were scared of us although I am not really sure why they are obviously way bigger than any of us are! But it was SO amazing to just like be in such a close proximity to such an incredible animal! We were basically running with them!

After our land safari we went back to our campsite and ate lunch and took naps in our crazy hot tents. About 1:30 we got up and got ready to go on our boat Safari. We drove down to the Nile and got on a boat. I sat up in the front so that I could take pictures the whole time!

It was not the most exciting thing ever, but we saw lots of crocodiles, hippos, and birds. On the way back we saw elephants down at the Nile. There was a whole herd, including two babies!! It was one of the coolest things everrrr!!

That night we hung out together talking and staying up late. Becky (my tent mate) and I decided to scare the others while they were in the bathroom. We climbed under their beds until they walked back in and grabbed their legs. Then all four of us went to the other tent to scare the last two. It was hilarious!

The next day before we had to head back we hiked up to Murchison Falls. It was one of the most beautiful sites here. It made me fall in love with Africa and Uganda even more. We hiked to a point where you just got soaked from the mist spraying up and then hiked all the way up to one of the falls where you literally could of just walked right in. It would have killed you in seconds though. It was so incredible powerful and beautiful. There was a constant rainbow over it, that was just so incredible to see.

Then we drove back. It was hands down one of the best weekends that I have had here. So so amazing!

You can see all my safari pictures on facebook by clicking this link - you do NOT have to have facebook to view them!!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Musana Camps!

This blog is late, I am way behind on them!

Last weekend my roommate Lindsay, Alayna, Grace, and I went to Musana Camps. It is run by Lindsay's old camp director and they are setting it up to run in Uganda.

It was really neat to visit. We spent Saturday night and all day Sunday there.

We got in fairly late Saturday night and helped them unload groceries and were met with beautiful homemade bread.

We stayed in safari tents on mattresses more comfortable than the ones we sleep on at school. We smushed our beds together and had so much fun together.

Sunday we got to tour the camp and Dave told us all about what was going on and what they wanted to do. We got to eat real food all weekend and swim in Lake Victoria.

Lake Victoria is pretty disgusting but it was still super fun! Lindsay and I got sick afterwards. We are not sure why but spent Monday sleeping, drinking Sprite, and eating crackers and were as good as new! It was a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is home really where your heart is?

I have been thinking about a lot of different things lately as my time here dwindles down. One is that I am not ready to leave Uganda in 5 weeks. Part of me is, in the sense that I miss my friends and family. In the same moment I am not ready to leave my friends here, to leave this amazing semester and country and continent that I love so much.

It is hard to explain all my feelings towards the matter. I realized it all yesterday though at my practicum. I was sitting with about 10 kids, one was HIV positive, about 5 were blind, and obviously all had been abandoned in some way, shape or form. As sarah just laid her head on my lap and we talked to them all, I felt so helpless like I could do nothing. And in that moment I realized how split up my heart truly is.

They say home is where your heart is but what if your heart is not in one place? Although I have not moved as much as some people have, I have moved a great deal. I also am someone who gets emotionally attached to people and places easily. I do not really know why, and my papa always told me that I needed to learn to control my emotions. Although as I have been growing up this has happened more, I am still someone who gets attached. Quickly, and I struggle with ever letting go.

I was born in Florida, then I moved to Indiana where I met friends for life. The Kirts will forever be my other family. Then I moved to northern France in the Alps, and the Southern France near Marseille. Then to Morocco. I lived in Georgia for the summers, and somehow ended up in Pennsylvania for school.

In each of those places I left a piece of me, of my heart. I fell in love over and over again and part of me will always be in those places. Now I am not saying that I am not 'whole' anymore, or that whoever I marry will not get all of my heart because that is not it at all.

Moving all around gave me many passions in life. I have this desire to change the world, even though realistically I know that I cannot. I have passions for so many things I do not know what on earth to do with my life.

All this to say that I love Africa, I love Uganda, and I am so very happy that I am here. I miss people yes, but I always miss someone - always. Also just that I think home is a relative term. Home is wherever I am in that moment. Home is my family and home is with the person who has my heart in a totally different way than anyone else ever will. Home is not a place where I grew up for 20 years of my life. Home is not a town, a city, or a country. Home is what you make it. Home is a feeling of belonging and a love for who you are with and where you are.

One of the best choices I have ever made for myself was to come here, and get away from everything for a semester. I absolutely love my life and I am so happy.
(I hope this all made some sense :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A few pictures from this past week.

(The biggest fall at Sipi)
(Rainbow at Sipi Falls)
(Dead chicken feathers)
(Holding our baby chickens!
(Me and Peter and Kenneth)

All night long.

Tuesday night Alayna and I stayed the night at our practicum site - CHAIN. We have done this once before, but it is probably the most exciting thing of my life during the school week, so that is what I am gonna write about.

It was a very different two days than normal.

On Tuesday at practicum we first went over our assessments with Dorothy. I was a little confused as to some of the answers, but we talked for a long time about what we have done here, and what we will do. Even though we do not have a lot of time left it was good to understand what she saw in us, and what she wanted us to learn. I am not sure if it will all happen just because of the short amount of time left, and just because many times I feel like we are supposed to learn something or do something, but then never get to.

Some of the things that Dorothy said we had not ‘learned’ yet were things that I felt that I had asked to do, or tried to mention, but then I got sent to the school or to wash clothes. As much as I enjoyed the time with the mothers, I feel that I could have done what she wanted had she chosen to. It was encouraging to see how she thought I was succeeding though, and to just see her view of the work that I had done.

We then went and observed the children learning a new song to sing with their visitors. Both Margret and Denise were leading it. We had dinner with Brigit and David and got to talk some about the children and the home. We played American football with the kids afterwards for a while which was fun.

On Wednesday we went to staff devotions and then spent the majority of the day retyping profiles. We began the process on their computers, but it was taking a long time, and decided to use our own computers, and with two of us working on it we were able to get many done. We took a break to serve the children lunch, and then once we finished at the end of the day we played with the children for a while.

Updating the profiles was a little odd. All we really updated was their age, grade, and added their birth date. So it felt a little pointless. We retyped a good many of these, but that was pretty much it. It did feel like we were getting to do a little more social work so that was nice.

I now have a little over 130 hours, so I am going 10 hours next week and the next, and I will be done. I am ready to be done in some ways, so I am excited. I will miss the kids though, but it will be nice to be done.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rural Homestays and Waterfalls

This past week was hands down one of the best of my life.

Last Friday we headed out to Soroti for rural home stays. I was in utter terror. I did not have the best Mukono home stay experience, but I was able to deal with it fine because I could come back to school during the day and see people. This however was going to be 24 hours a day, never leaving, constant African family immersion.

We drove the 5ish hours and got to Margret’s house. She works for our program and knows the families that we stay with, and tries to match us up. We stayed at her house the first night. We were going to camp out in tents and have a bonding fire. We set up all the tents, but it began pouring down torrential rain as soon as we finished raining. A few people had decided that their tents did not need to be staked down and we watched as the wind blew them across the yard. All of our stuff was in the tents, so I sprinted out to mine to grab all the stuff I could. I was drenched just going there and back. We spent the night playing mafia and hanging out.

During this time, they were deciding what families to put us with. I was praying that I would be paired. They made announcements and I was not. I ended up talking to the leaders and they told me they would talk to me in the morning about how I felt. So I talked to Margret and she told me that she knew I wanted to be paired, but that they placed me with this family because they thought I would really enjoy it. She told me that she could see something in me that I could not, and that she truly thought I do it. I decided to trust her.

I ended up being one of the first, and thankfully my friends Rachel and Matt, ended up being my neighbors. I met my family, which consists of my ‘mama’ and a lot of boys basically. It is so weird to go from being the oldest of three girls to being the youngest of at least five boys. I am not even sure how many brothers I had.

I had a really nice house. We had electricity which mostly no one in that area has, we had a maid – who I liked a lot and spent a lot of time with – and a boy that worked since my mama was 73 years old. I had my own room, and only my mama, the maid and I stayed in the house. The boys lived in two different not so nice houses in-between the house and the street. We bathed inside, had new latrines, and ate a dining room table. I had a pretty untraditional family as a whole.

The first day I shelled ground nuts (they are a lot like peanuts), learned how to herd goats, made g-nut sauce, and ate SO many oranges. My family has orange orchards and grows pretty much everything (sweet potatoes, maize, g-nuts, cassava, and more). We also took a walk to see the monkeys but because of the road getting wider and what not they are not around, but we did get to see Rachel and Matt which was fun. When I got home I got to see the chickens that my family is raising, and ate dinner super late (like 10!) had prayers and went to bed.

Day two was a Sunday, and my mama wanted me to go the English service at St. Marks, so I had to walk no joke – like two miles to church, and saw two other USP students. Church however was at 7 am, which means I had to get up at 6. When I got back though we had Chapati for breakfast which was awesome! I went and took a nap cause I was so tired, and my mama was at church at another place for the Atesso service. Then when she came back the people who started and run the Village2Village program (its really cool you should look it up!) and I got to talk to them for awhile which was extremely interesting. Then two of the brothers (Peter and Kenneth) and I took a hike up this huge hill. We saw the president’s old house, and just looked around. It was sooooo pretty to see! However, whoever created ankle length, wrap around skirts, really could not of planned for whoever wore them to have to hike up and down huge hills in the bush of Africa – just saying. When we went home we washed dishes for the second time and then got to roast corn. It is actually really good.

Day three I was sent with Peter and Simon to work in the garden…. Well that turned out to be me standing there while they hoed the garden. Peter would have me do one, but then he would go back and fix it. So I did a few, but he fixed all but two. Then we had breakfast – chaptai and boiled egg. I hate boiled eggs, but I ate that yolk cause Chapati was so worth it. Then Peter, Kenneth, and I walked to Kenneth’s families compound and sat in his hut for awhile then got the wheelbarrow to take home. I then hung out with Julius (another brother) until lunch at four.

So we are sitting there talking and Julius says do you know how to play cards, and I ask what game and he just gives me a blank stare and says cards. I do not really know how to respond at this point, so he explains ‘cards’ to me, and it is a game that sounds like go fish, so I am thinking this will be easy. It ends up being a weird form of uno that essentially made no sense. I also laughed when they told me that spades are called super, and clubs is called flowers.

Julius, Peter, Kenneth, (and Annette and Simon sometimes too) and I had a variety of interesting and strange conversations this week. Their favorite subjects were Obama and women so I am sure you can imagine. Julius and I had a talk about Obama where he kinda agreed with me, but then we were with everyone and all of a sudden his opinion changed. It was interesting. Someone said Obama is my hero, and I asked them why. Their answer he is African. I said actually he is not he is American. The response I get – NO he is from Kenya (I love when they think they know more about America than I do). I proceed to tell them that he is American, that he was born in America so it does not matter where his father is from because he CANNOT be president unless he is American. So I ask again, why is he your hero what did he do for you. The response I get… Uhhhh he is black… Really that is why he is your hero.. Cause he is black? We had to have this conversation and an extension of it way to many times.

Their other favorite talk to have was about white women versus black women. They liked to tell me that ONLY girls cheat – which is far from true - and that therefore they want white American (they could settle for European though…) because in their minds they are perfect. I will not even get into the details of this, but it made me a little sad that they view their world so harshly. So many of them want to move to America because, well in their own words it is heaven. I tried to explain that it is not heaven and that they should stay in their country, and just the value of culture and what you can do where you are, and your own women…. It was quite interesting.

The rest of the day I shelled more g-nuts, ate more oranges – I had like three a day, had dinner prayers, and went to bed.

Day four I learned how to make Chapati – I am basically a pro at rolling it now haha. I also went and visited the village2village site which was really neat to see. This was also the day that I got to kill a chicken. I enjoyed it way to much. So you know how most people will break its neck or chop it off? Well that is not what we did. I was told to stand on the feet and the wings, then I was told to hold the head up a certain way. I was then handed a not sharp knife and told to basically saw through the neck with it. I had blood splattered everywhere and halfway through the rooster was making noise and not happy at all, but I did finish and get it off. We then de-feathered and gutted it which was pretty neat too. And let me say it tasted SO good. I rolled more chapti later that night and we got them for dinner!

It gets dark here around 7, and for some reason the moon would not be out until like 10. When I was outside at about 8 or 9 the sky was so pretty. I saw more stars than I ever have in my life. I wish I could of captured it.

(Chicken gutting)

Dave five I was taught how to make mandaze – my favorite – took dried maize off of the cob forever – my hands were SO sore – and went to visit the fish farm. It was pretty interesting. They raise Tilapia and Catfish so I got to see them from eggs to however many months the biggest ones were. Then I hung out in the kitchen while we made dinner, and that was pretty much it!

Day six my allergies went wild. My family had a cat which I am allergic too, but I had been taking my allergy pill every morning and a Benadryl every night but after that many days my face just couldn’t take it anymore I guess and I could not stop sneezing. One of the interns brought me antihistamine, but all four of them did not help me, just gave me a bad headache. That day we met up with Matt, Rachel, and one of their brothers and went on a walk to the research center, which was quite interesting. It was started by white people but is now run by Ugandans. They have all sorts of plants and animals that they are trying to better basically, for example they developed a seedless orange tree. So that was pretty neat. Then I just hung out with my family had dinner, prayers, and went to bed.

Day seven was sadly my last day with my family .I made Mandaze with my mama, and we took some family pictures. I got picked up right after breakfast, I was sad to leave but really happy to see everyone. We then headed to Sepia Falls. All we really did that day was have a short debrief and hang out and get to finally talk to each other again. We all had such different experiences, and the IMME group was in a different city so it was good to get to hear everyone’s stories.

(My family)

Day eight was amazing. We took a hike to see two of the falls. The first one we went to was the biggest one. We could feel the mist on our way to it, and to see it was so beautiful. We were soaked just standing near it, but it was incredible to see.

We then hiked to the second falls. There were two waterfalls, and we came up from behind them in a cave and got to stand under them. I was freezing and soaked to the bone but it was BEYOND incredible. I felt like seeing these just showed me once again how big God really is. I mean there is not way something this beautiful was an accident, and just seeing how huge and powerful this water was, made me wonder how people could ever see something this amazing and not believe in God.

Later that day we got to go to a coffee plantation place and see the whole process of coffee from the bush to being roasted. I wrote a huge essay on this and I love coffee so It was pretty neat to see. We got to take part in the process and got to drink coffee at the end which was great too, since it was the first good coffee I have had since being here!

That was pretty much it. We hung out some more and came back the next day. I had an amazing week, I got to eat good food, interact with an incredible family and had one of the best weeks I have had since being here! I thought it was going to be awful, but turned out I could not have been more wrong. I loved it!

It was interesting though, that although this week was great it made me really miss my family and friends even more. I really love my family. Even though we all have our issues, and even though we do not always get along, they all mean the world to me. My family has been there with me and for me since day one, and even though I normally do not get to see them at this time, I would have had other people surrounding me that have become like family to me.

This year I am not going home for Christmas. I am spending it with my grandparents and wonderful aunt and uncle. I am super excited about this because I love them all dearly and I have not gotten to spend a Christmas with them in a long long time. However spending this whole week in a family, just made me truly realize how much I love and miss my family. My papa has always been someone that I can respect and love. He has taught me more than anyone, and even just being here in general I have realized how much I love him being my pastor and how weird it is to hear other people preach every week. My mommy is probably the most amazing woman on planet earth. I have never seen someone do so much. She loves people so much, and has always been at my papa's side helping him. My sisters and I did not always get along for some reason or another, but they are so dear to my heart. I love them both so so much.

I know that this may not all be about my homestay, but being a daughter and a sister to someone else just really made me miss my family so much. In many ways I feel as though I am ready to be done. We only have about five more weeks of classes though, and I am getting excited to see the end and get to see my family, and my friends again.

P.S. I am having issues uploading photos, so more pictures will come!